For a lengthy amount of time licensed games generally signified a poor title. However, licensed games have certainly been improving of late, with developers seemingly putting in quite a lot of effort. In terms of the movie licenses the Pixar movies are hot property and the latest film Cars is sure to be one of the biggest films for the studio yet. As sure as we'll be seeing a Pirates of the Caribbean and a Superman Returns game, THQ have released a Cars game. The developer of the Cars game is no other than Rainbow Studios, who are the team behind the MX Vs ATV titles. Thankfully their experience with two wheeled vehicles has translated well to four wheeled vehicles and Cars is quite possibly the best movie to game adaptation so far this year, and it's almost certainly the best game based on a Pixar film yet.
Obviously, Cars is a racing game. It contains quite a few options but the majority of the single player content lies in the story mode. Surprisingly, the game isn't actually based during the movie but it is set after the events of the movie. If you haven't seen the movie then the cut scenes do provide a bit of back story, but it's no substitute for the real thing. When you first go into story mode you can select a full story mode or a child friendly campaign, which is a little shorter and easier. In either campaign players assume control of Lightning McQueen as he works his way through a new season against his rival Chick Hicks. Rainbow Studios certainly took a bit of a risk setting the game after the events of the movie but it's paid off.
As soon as you select which campaign you would like to play a small cut scene plays that introduces you to Lightning McQueen. Players are then thrown into a race and after winning the race (which shouldn't be too difficult at all), you're free to drive around Radiator Springs and Route 66. The whole open world aspect of the game is less restrictive than a conventional menu based system and it means you can go around doing missions at your own pace. Some of these missions are things like collecting postcards but most of the missions are obviously related to racing and winning these race events. The main complaint we have about the story mode is that it is a little slow off the mark. This is essential for children but bigger kids may be put off by the slow pace in the first few hours of the game. As you progress through the story mode you're able to boost and perform some extra moves. The game is a lot more enjoyable the further it goes.
The story mode isn't the only mode in the game though and there is also an arcade mode. The arcade mode lets you play through any of the missions that you've previously completed without having to drive around to locate these races. The game also includes a multiplayer mode which is a great addition. This is one of the first times that a game based on a film has included multiplayer.
For the most part the single player campaign is solid and enjoyable. At times some of the missions become a bit repetitive though. The AI isn't entirely intelligent and the easy switch has been turned on for the races. This means you can be quite a distance behind and still quite comfortably end up winning the race which doesn't make the game very challenging. It also means that children probably aren't going to have too much trouble completing the game. If they do manage to do so then the open world game play will probably keep them occupied anyway. It is also apparant that the game had to be rushed a little to coincide with the release of the movie, ast here are sometimes graphical glitches and a few technical errors, such as getting stuck in parts of Radiator Springs where you're not meant to be.
The developers have done a good job making the game look very similar to the movie. The cars in particular have had a lot of attention paid to them and they look great. The game runs at a consistant frame rate as well, so we never had any frame rate issues to slow things down. One of the best aspects of the game is the audio work. The soundtrack is fully licensed and sounds brilliant but the voicework is what really makes this game sound authentic. Every actor has provided their voice to the game and rather than sound like a dull brick everybody sounds like they are enthusiastic and serious about contributing their voice to the film. This means the Cars game comes with the voices of Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, Michael Keaton, Tony Shaloub, George Calin, Paul Newman and more. The only complaint we could have in regards to the audio is that the speech becomes a little repetitive at times, but this is forgivable.
Whether you select the toned down campaign or the more beefed up option the game is over in about seven to eight hours. The game also includes a tonne of unlockable content, so if you're a die hard Cars fan then you will want to play through the game and collect everything. There may be a lot of exras but none of them are incredible bonuses that stengthen the appeal of the game though.
Cars isn't a highly innovative title and it has a few problems such as slow pacing and some technical errors, but for the most part the game is enjoyable and a great for fans of the film. The racing aspect of the game isn't deep, but children aren't likely to care. With licensed titles it would be quite easy for a developer to rush out the release but it seems like Rainbow Studios really wanted to create a solid title and they've definitely done this. Cars is simply one of the best children's games released this year.